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Yom Kippur: Sin and freedom

| Monday, Oct. 6, 2003

Before we can be held responsible for our transgressions against God and man, we must have free will -- the capacity to know right from wrong, the power to choose and the knowledge we have acted for good or for ill.

Today, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, can occasion spiritual agony. There is a certainty that we will fall short of the ideal -- a life without sin -- no matter the effort.

Faith is essential. We must have faith that we receive the grace to improve. We must remember also that despairing of self -improvement sets one on a road to despotism.

Despots reject religion or co-opt it. In each case the despot endeavors to become the religious focus by engaging the power of the state against the person's right to seek God in his own way.

In these places of damnation, life is lived for the state -- a godless one or a theocratic one. Free will has no place.

This page, as readers know, rejects the utter secularization of public life as well as the theocratic instinct. In either case, we would lose sight of the fundamental right of the independent person to seek an intimate relationship with a higher power.

Today we ponder atonement, the rejection of sin and the lifelong mission of self-improvement. We hope that when life's journey has ended, we may say it is better we lived into the fullness of our years.

In freedom.

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